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Household economics: Making ends meet
El Kab, New Kingdom
Housing would have made up five to ten percent of the total household expenditure. In pre-Roman times such a list would not have included cheese–consumption of milk and milk products was very low–soap, which had not been invented yet, and wine–the popular drink in pre-Roman times was beer. Eggs, too, appear to have played but a very small part in their diet and meat consumption may well have been lower. Fish should probably be substituted for the food items not available in pharaonic times.
In Roman Egypt an unskilled labourer could supply between seventy and ninety percent of his family's basic needs on his own, the rest would have to be made up by the wife and the children; but even with all the family contributing, an unskilled labourer could have achieved little more than preventing his family from starving.
Too few data are available about the situation of the peasants, but it is doubtful whether they were better off than the wage earners, concerning whom records are slightly more abundant, and these reflect living conditions far removed from those in an ancient Cockaigne.
Behold, I have sent you 24 copper deben through Sihathor for the lease of the land.Seqanakht wrote 'copper deben' rather than 'deben of copper' which seems to indicate that he sent 24 copper pieces of one deben weight each.
But during the New Kingdom metal rarely changed hands, though it was often used as a base for evaluation and comparison.
What he was paid for the painting of a coffin: Weaving of a garment, worth 3 seniu, 1 sack worth ½ sack of corn,  1 mat with coverlet worth ½ seniu, 1 bronze vessel worth ½ seniu.A seniu, apparently one twelfth of a deben , was about 7.6 grammes of silver, equal to almost 8 deben of copper at New Kingdom rates.
The vast majority of Egyptians existed at subsistence level. The basic needs of a person living in a warm country like Egypt are minimal: water, food, a simple shelter and some clothing. And the workmen were paid little more than such a minimum: during the Old Kingdom the daily ration or wage was ten loaves of bread  and two jugs of beer.
Better information can be had about the New Kingdom. A sack of corn  containing 77 litres of wheat weighed about 58 kg and was valued at two deben of copper. At Deir el Medine, where workers were presumably rather better remunerated than elsewhere, the corn  rations they received on day 17 of the second month of winter, Year 29, were as follows :
Cereal based foods were the base of alimentation, and wages were paid to a large part in grain, but other goods are also mentioned, such as fruit and vegetables, fish, clothes and the like. A great deal of these rations was consumed by the workers and their families , and little surplus remained with which to acquire other necessities, let alone luxuries.
According to the Zenon papyri, during early Ptolemaic Period the wages of an unskilled worker were about one obol (one twelfth of a kit) a day , but a man named Kleon paid his workers two and a quarter obols per day day some time between 256 and 248 BCE. 
PricesIn Egypt's command economy , based on the collection and redistribution of much of the agricultural produce not directly consumed by the producers themselves, prices remained stable for great lengths of time and market forces had only a marginal influence on them during times of strong government and little social mobility.
One should not imagine a system where prices were fixed by a central authority, with directives sent to merchants and state inspectors descending upon weekly markets to check on prices. These were probably agreed upon by vendor and buyer after bargaining, with traditional prices as guidelines.
As is the case in any deeply conservative society, one was expected to do the right thing, right meaning whatever had been done for generations and belonged therefore to the correct order of things, sanctified as maat. Of course, people profited to varying degrees, but these differences were generally accepted by the populace: Everybody enjoyed a part of the country's wealth which could be quite small, as long as the distribution was seen to be fair.
Thus ancient custom and not momentary advantage and greed dictated prices and wages much of the time. If there was a shortage of some commodity, prices did not rise until only the wealthiest were able to pay them. Instead of becoming unaffordable to the poor because of the expense, it became unavailable to the lowly because of the precedence higher ranked individuals enjoyed. The outcome was the same: the poor had to do without.
The list below reflects New Kingdom prices of a number of commodities in copper unless otherwise stated. Copper was worth approximately one hundredth of its weight in silver during the New Kingdom. Ten copper deben would have equalled one kit of silver. There were wide fluctuations due to varying sizes, quality etc, and prices were affected by the passage of time.
El Kab, New Kingdom
 The length of the lease is unknown. 1 arura: setjat, about 2700 m², which might have yielded about 150 kg of wheat annually.
 command economy: using modern nomenclature for ancient phenomena and institutions is always misleading. The ancient Egyptians did not plan their economic activities in the way the unlamented Soviet Union did, not having the necessary statistical information. (Some people will say, neither did the Soviet Union.) Production, trade and consumption followed traditional patterns which had proved themselves in the past. Planned action was probably mostly restricted to the levying of taxes, generally in the form of grain, its storage and redistribution, on a local or regional level.
 According to R. J. Leprohon, 2001. This ratio was much lower than in other ancient cultures. It may have reflected the relative scarcity of silver in Egypt, which did not have any silver mines of its own - always remembering that the principle of supply and demand seems to have had little influence on the egyptian economy.
 The Egyptians generally used a decimal system. The seniu may be the result of Mesopotamian influence. It disappeared during the latter stages of the New Kingdom.
 It has been proposed that in the Old Kingdom the mention of loaves of bread refers not necessarily to loaves themselves but rather to their value, a kind of currency of account. 
 the deben was about 91 grammes of copper
 K. Kitchen, Early Canaanites in Rio de Janeiro and a 'corrupt' Ramesside land-sale, 1990
 Brian P. Muhs, Tax Receipts, Taxpayers, and Taxes in Early Ptolemaic Thebes, 2005
 These silver tetradrachmas were lighter than their nominal value would suggest, worth abroad only 20 instead of 24 obols. This may have been a governmental attempt at keeping the silver in Egypt .
 According to estimates the yearly consumption of wheat per family was about 22 artabas, 890 litres (Andrew Monson, 2005).
 Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae => aaew => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Briefe => Briefe des Neuen Reiches => Verwaltung/Alltag => Briefe aus Theben => Briefwechsel des Djehuti-mesu => pGeneva D 407 => Brief an Djehuti-mesu von Bu-teh-Imen
 Walter Scheidel in Real Wages in Early Economies: Evidence for Living Standards from 2000 BCE to 1300 CE , Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics, Dissertation 2008, p.22:
Since wages for adult male workers were often so modest, labor force participation of both adult women and minors must have been high in order to fend off starvation. Corn is, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the chief cereal crop of a district, in the case of ancient Egypt corn refers to wheat and/or barley—not maize.
 P.Col. IV 104, P.Col.Zen. II 104; APIS record: columbia.apis.p103, accessed 14th May 2009
 André J. Veldmeijer, "Cordage Production", in W. Wendrich ed. UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, March 2009
 Circular letter from Apollonios to the financial officials, 19th April 111 BCE, http://wwwapp.cc.columbia.edu/ldpd/app/apis/item?mode=item&key=berkeley.apis.467, accessed 17th May 2009
 P.Tebt.1087, http://wwwapp.cc.columbia.edu/ldpd/app/apis/item?mode=item&key=berkeley.apis.1426 accessed June 2009
 Walter Scheidel, Real wages in early economies: Evidence for living standards from 1800 BCE to 1300 CE, Version 4.0 September 2009, Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics
 M. Lichtheim, Demotic Ostraca from Medinet Habu, University of Chicago Press 1957, p.58. If the cow died a compensation of three stater was due.
 M. Lichtheim, Demotic Ostraca from Medinet Habu, University of Chicago Press 1957, p.2
 G. Möller, "Ein ägyptischer Schuldschein der 22. Dynastie" in Sitzungsberichte der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Verlag der Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1921, p.302
 Nigel Strudwick, Ronald J. Leprohon, Texts from the Pyramid Age, Brill 2005, pp.205f.
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